CHAPTER 56. Chicago

Once more we boarded the train at night and went straight to our sleeper.

We left at 10 o’clock by the Montreal time, but as they were observing daylight saving it was actually 11 o’clock by standard time. The railways in America do not observe daylight saving hours as some towns have it and others don’t, so the best way out of the difficulty for them is to retain the standard time in all their time tables. This causes a little confusion unless it is remembered. To make matters worse, we were travelling west to Chicago and consequently before we got there we had picked up an hour in the time. That meant there was a difference of two hours, but as they do not observe daylight saving it was reduced to one hour. I got so tangled up at times that I had to think carefully before I knew whether to go by my watch or the town clock. Anyhow, we arrived at Chicago at 7.45 a.m. and then I put my watch right.

Leaving Rozie at the hotel to have a rest I went straight to the office and met the Manager, Mr. Rex Rathbun, who was quite a different man from the manager in Toronto but appeared to be very successful in the conduct of the Burroughs business. I started straight away to visit some installations as arrangements had been made for my arrival. Mr. Rathbun took me to the Engineers’ Club for lunch, which was at the top of one of the highest skyscrapers.

World Tour 1938
Marshall Field’s Merchandise Mart, the largest single building in the world. Lake Michigan in background

From the windows I looked out upon Marshall Field’s Merchandise Mart, which is the largest single building in the world. It is only 24 stories high, but it covers a large area and the floor space is 93 acres. It has 6½ miles of plate glass display windows and more than the same distance of corridors. Over 15,000 people carry on their daily occupation in this one building.

World Tour 1938
a view of a small section of Chicago from the Engineers Club

This is only one of the large buildings and skyscrapers which were shown to me by Mr. Rathbun during the lunch hour. Chicago is certainly a wonderful place. In my opinion, it is not as clean or as well laid out as New York. It still has the elevated railway over 231 miles of track. This is quite an engineering feat, but it is out of date as it is both noisy and dirty.

World Tour 1938
Chicago buildings

To speak to the people in Chicago about their city you can be sure you will be told it is the best in the world. It is 26 miles long and ten miles wide.

World Tour 1938
Chicago buildings

Chicago claims to have 5300 miles of streets, and one of these, Western Avenue, is 22 miles long. Beneath the streets are railways electrically operated which relieve the congestion in the streets. They claim to lead the world in so many ways to-day that it is not at all surprising that they expect to be the world’s largest city within the next 30 years. Truly it is a wonderful city and the people have done a wonderful job. They have undertaken and accomplished such huge tasks that I would never be surprised at anything they attempted in the future.

World Tour 1938
Some Chicago skyscrapers. On the top of the one on the left is a cathedral

The Chicago river went in a direction which did not suit them, so they connected it with the Mississippi which was lower and that made the river run in the opposite direction. Instead of running into the lake it took water from the lake.

World Tour 1938
A parking area in Chicago

The city was found to be too close to the lake and there was not sufficient room for parks so they just put up a wall and filled in some thousands of acres in front of the city which they now claim is the best park and boulevard in the world. I stepped out the footpath in front of he Stevens Hotel and it was just 33 feet wide. In the street outside the Hotel I watched eight lines of traffic travelling at the same time, four in each direction.

World Tour 1938
the ten cent boot blacks at Chicago

This record will not permit me to tell you more about this city. Mr. Rathbun could have entertained me for hours as he knows all about it, but there was work to be done so we returned to the office.

I met more of the men and went over the agency premises. I was very forcibly struck with the Service Department. In my opinion, this is the best Service Department I have seen. I learnt a great deal from this point of view and went into a lot of the details with Mr. Rathbun. He could not accept my invitation to dinner, as he already had another appointment.

After five there seemed to be a good opportunity for me to find an enlarger, as Don had cabled that the one at home was not suitable for my films, but I had not yet had an opportunity of finding one. I went to three large photographic dealers and eventually found what I was wanting.

World Tour 1938
cleaning windows on a skyscraper at Chicago

Rozie was rested when I got back to the hotel and we took a tour of the city and went out to dinner. The next day Mrs. Rathbun took her out in the car while I spent a day at the office.

World Tour 1938
the building photographed at night is Wrigleys

The whole of the morning was occupied in seeing the installation of the Peoples Gaslight Co. This was a wonderful sight. It is the largest company of its kind in the world. They have hundreds of machines. I saw 35 of the full public utility machines working as I had never believed they could work. The girls were putting out between 1500 and 2000 bills per operator per day. I also visited the International Harvester Co. and made some progress with the sale of a bookkeeping machine for our Christchurch office.

The time in this great city was all too short and it seemed that I was saying goodbye to Mr. Rathbun almost as soon as I got there.

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